The teenage protagonist of THE KING OF ESCAPE may have been responsible for his father’s suicide. Or maybe not. Figuring out which of those statements is the truth drives the narrative of this stirring YA drama.
Nicholas Carrier gets himself into trouble. A lot. Most of his behavioral “failures”, including a recently completed house-arrest sentence, are fueled by drugs and alcohol. Most of his turning to this substance abuse is to escape the agony of having a distant father and a distracted, oppressed mother. His father’s suicide brings even more stress to the already tension-wrought family – Nicholas’ long-suffering mother, his young teen sister Mad, and twelve-year-old special-needs brother, Jacob. It also brings Nicholas disturbing nightmares in which his father always appears. Sometimes in these nightmares his father attempts to be genial and comforting, other times he is accusatory and even violent. The only certainty about these nightmares is that they always trigger Nicholas to wet his bed. Meanwhile his mother, looking for anything that may allow her family to reset itself into some semblance of normalcy, books herself and the children on a family cruise.
Once aboard the ship Nicholas’ nightmares begin to get more formidable as the tension troubling the family, unresponsive to the promised relaxation of a cruise, continues to grow. Making matters worse is that Nicholas, although he does manage to snag the occasional cocktail left abandoned on a hallway tray or side table, is essentially cut off from his normal means of escape, which is unlimited access to drugs and alcohol. In one nightmare Nicholas is forced to revisit the events leading up to his arrest. In another the singular family secret that has haunted his parents for years is revealed to him. He does find a bit of respite in his meeting a young girl with whom he spends some much needed downtime. But even his new friendship foments tension as he begins to neglect his family responsibilities. The tension gets to his sister and she reacts by outwardly accusing Nicholas of their father’s death, and this, along with his angrily ruining his friendship with the young lady, push Nicholas to the brink of a total breakdown.
With all this pressing down on him he tries to escape into sleep. Just as he is about to give in to that evening’s nightmare he is sudden woke by a major crisis that threatens the very life of a family member. The emergency and his reaction to it ultimately force Nicholas to resolve any guilt he feels, reassess his responsibilities as a son and a brother, and finally bring some healing resolution to those closest to him.
Strongly written and definitely warranting a dedicated reader, THE KING OF ESCAPE is narrated in an unobtrusive, almost calming voice, which belies the intensity of the events portrayed.
~Johnny Masiulewicz for Indie Reader